Flourishing Faith

Bible Book: 2 Thessalonians  1 : 3
Subject: Revival; Faith, Flourishing

When we think of revival, what comes to mind? We want to know who will do the preaching and who will direct the music. Then, we want to know about revival publicity, visitation, and which “Pack-A Pew” plan we will use this year. This is all important, but I would like for us to focus on two important questions today. The first is, “do we need a revival?” The second is “do we really want a revival?” No, let me stop you right there! I didn’t ask, “do you think your neighbor needs a revival?” Nor, did I ask, “Do you want your neighbor to experience a revival?” What I would like for us to focus on today is, do YOU believe WE need a revival, and do WE really want to experience a revival?

Let me confess that when we are preparing for a revival, I believe YOU need a revival, and while I want to see lost people saved and I want to see YOU “rededicate” yourself to the Lord: but that is not my question today. The question I am trying not to ask myself while I am asking it of you is, do I want my life changed by our upcoming revival?! There! I said it. Oh, I want to tell everyone how many people walked the aisle; how many were saved, how many moved their letter to our church, and how many rededicated themselves to the Lord during our revival. I confess that I want to feel good about our revival, both during the revival and after it is over. At the same time, I am not sure I want to get out of my comfort zone. I want to feel good, but I am satisfied with the way I am living my life and I don’t want to change anything. Not very much, anyway. Know what I am saying?

Now, for the first question, Do we need a revival? We desperately need a revival! One day this week I was driving in from town and caught a few minutes of the Rush Limbaugh radio program.
I made a mental note of some statistics he shared and they cry our for revival:

70% of all black babies today are born out of wedlock.
53% of all Hispanic babies are born out of wedlock.
70% of all poor white babies are born out of wedlock.
40% of all babies in America are born out of wedlock.
2-3% of all babies born in the first 200 years of American history were born out of wedlock.

Do we need a special study to help us understand why only 2 - 3% of the babies born for the first 200 years of history were born out of wed lock? Would you like for me to offer an opinion? I didn’t think so. However, I will offer up something for your consideration. What happened in 1925? The Stokes trial, or the famous Monkey Trial. Withing ten years of that famous trial evolution has made its way into public schools. Now, consider this: Francis Schaeffer said England entered the post-Christian era of her history in 1895, America in 1935 - ten years after the Stokes trial. Before long, evolution was being taught to students all across America. Somewhere along the way the whole thought of special creation was totally out of place in pubic schools and universities. Tell boys and girls there is no Creator and they may well forget there is a Redeemer. If there is no Creator why do we need a Redeemer, since there will be no Judge at the end of it all?

We live in what was once considered as a Christian nation, a nation our Founding Fathers assured people was founded upon New Testament principles, a nations that witnessed two Great Awakenings. David Barton makes available many sound proofs that this country was founded upon Christians principles and values, but today politicians, educators, and social engineers are releasing same-sex marriage, and other forms of immorality upon the people of this country. The same people go ballistic when anyone mentions the name Jesus, sets up a nativity scene in a public place, or talks about God, or mention prayer at a football game. Christians are compromising, refusing to confess Jesus publicly, but all the while telling us, “I am a person of faith.” Why are they afraid to say, “I am a Christian?” America, it seems is at war against God!

I heard someone on American Family Radio this week report that 48% of girls now live with someone before marriage. Sadly, many parents seem comfortable with that. What will the outcome of all of that be? Many seem to think we decide. Guess again: "But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Rev 21:8, HCSB)

Is there hope? Yes. There is hope in revival and revival is promised - on His grounds: “"and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land." (2 Chron 7:14, HCSB)

Do we need revival? What do you think? Do we want revival? What do you think? Is it too late to pray for revival? Did you listen to the verse I just read (2 Chron. 7:14)? When you decide that Jesus is more important than baseball, football, movies, shopping, mall browsing, hunting and fishing, and just plain goofing off, you may humble yourself before the Lord, confess your sins, repent and ask for revival to come to your home or to your life.

Let me share something I once heard the late Adrian Rogers say, “The faith that falters before the finish was faulty from the first.” Those of us who heard him in person, listened to his audio tapes, or watched the videos remember that he had a way with words and phrases. He not only had the best voice in the country, he knew what to do with it. It may not be too late for revival in America.

When I read 2 Thessalonians 1:3, the Lord spoke to my heart and mind and I began making notes as fast as I could. Listen to these words: We must always thank God for you, brothers, which is fitting, since your faith is flourishing, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” (2 Thess 1:3, HCSB) Did you catch that? “Your faith is flourishing”? That is what revival will bring - or maybe we should say, that is what will bring revival.


A. A Flourishing Faith Is a Saving Faith.

There are three theories of Justification:

1) Works. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that salvation is “Not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:9). He wrote to the Galatians churches, “and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no human being will be justified” (Gal 2:16b, HCSB).

2) Works plus grace. In Romans 11:6, we read, “Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace.” (Romans 11:6). What that means is that grace (the free gift of God) destroys works and works destroy grace. You must choose one of the others, the two approaches are mutually exclusive.

3) Grace. Paul wrote the church at Ephesus, “For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8). He says the same thing in his letter to the Galatians: “And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ” (Gal. 2:16a).

We are saved by grace through the conduit of faith. There is no salvation apart form God grace and the faith He gives us so we can receive His grace.

B. A Flourishing Faith Is a Nurturing Faith.

“We must always thank God for you, brothers, which is fitting, since your faith is flourishing, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you among God’s churches—about your endurance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions you endure.” (2 Thess 1:3-4, HCSB)

What a testimony to the grace of God. Those believers were saved by His grace and proved it by loving one another, and by their endurance in persecutions and afflictions (both of these are in the plural).

We are saved by grace and we must live by faith: “For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). My good friend, Dr. J. Mike Minnix, recently recently published a very interesting and enlightening book, entitled, CHRISTIAN SENIORS LIVING SUPER LIVES. In this book, he states that “Faith is a conduit.” Further along in that paragraph he writes, “Think of faith as an invisible tube by which you connect to God’s supply of blessings for your life” (pg. 132). A number of years ago, in explaining the relationship of grace to faith, I wrote in at least one study, “We are saved by grace through faith. As water flows through a pipe to the water cooler to quench your thirst, faith is the conduit through which God’s grace flows into your life.” You can see why Mike’s statement resonated with me.

C. A Flourishing Faith is a Sanctifying Faith.

Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, “To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—theirs and ours” (1 Cor 1:2, HCSB). How are we sanctified? It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, but what does that mean? Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son... (Rom. 8:29). We may use other definitions or explanations, but this is about as simple as it gets. Everyone who is redeemed is predestined by God the Father to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Our heavenly Father wants to make us like His Son, Jesus Christ and places His Holy Spirit in us to accomplish that.


A. Let Us See What It Is not.

1. It is not a safe faith. I will offer some information from the book, Old Light on the Roman Church, by my very good friend Dr. Bill Cooper of Middlesex, England. If you want information you are not likely to find in any library to which you have access, go to SermonCity.Com and click on Authors, and then on my name (Johnny L. Sanders), and then click on Commentaries under my name. Go to the last listing (or search through the list) and click on OLD LIGHT ON THE ROMAN CHURCH and read Dr. Cooper’s amazing work:

“Aristobulus is a prime example of how the Bible can help us make better sense of otherwise mystifying secular records. The one appearance of his name in the Bible occurs in Romans 16:10 where Paul asks his readers to, “salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household.” Having directed his greetings to many others directly by name, it is intriguing that here Paul seems to be aware of the fact that Aristobulus himself is not at Rome, and would not be at Rome when his letter arrived (in AD 59/60) to be personally saluted. As we shall see in the next section concerning the Lady Pomponia, Paul was surprisingly well informed about what was happening in Rome, for he sends similar greetings in the same epistle to the household of Narcissus who was also seemingly absent from his house. So, if Aristobulus was not at Rome when Paul wrote his letter in AD 59/60, then where was he? For the answer, we must look to the secular records.

“Writing in AD 190, Hippolytus harks back to Aristobulus as the bishop of the Britons, and according to the Greek martyrologies, “[Aristobulus], one of the seventy disciples and a follower of St Paul the Apostle...was chosen by St Paul to be the missionary bishop to the land of Britain, inhabited by a very war-like and fierce race. By them he was often scourged and repeatedly dragged as a criminal through their towns, yet he converted many of them to Christianity. He was martyred after he had built [churches?] and ordained deacons and priests for the island.”70 This much from later Roman and Greek sources, who would not, we may assume, have had access to local British records. So what do the British records tell us?

“The early Britons knew Aristobulus as Arwystli Hen - Old Aristobulus. A better translation, however, might be Aristobulus the Elder, this suffix denoting his office in the Church rather than his age. According to the records, he accompanied Bran, the father of Caradoc, to Britain where they preached the Gospel. But they did not travel alone: “These came with Bran the Blessed from Rome to Britain - Arwystli Hen, Ilid, Cyndaw, men of Israel, [and] Maw the son of Arwystli.”71

“Of interest is the fact that, according to the Greek Martyrology, Aristobolus was one of the original seventy disciples who were sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:1&17), and in the British records we see him accompanied on his later mission to Britain by other Jews (Israeliait- men of Israel) and well as his own son. Of those who accompanied him, Ilid (whose name may be the early Welsh form of Elias) seems to have left his mark by giving his name to the small Welsh town of Llanilid - lit. the Church or ‘sacred enclosure’ of Ilid - which lies between Cardiff and Bridgend, evidently commemorating his work in that part of the country. He is further remembered in an ancient British proverb, “Hast thou heard the saying of Ilid, one come of the race of Israel - ‘There is no mania like passion’?”72

“As for Aristobulus himself, we read in other sources that he was slain in Britain during a mission to the Ordovician Welsh on the 15th March AD 59.73 This would have been about the time that Paul was writing his letter to the Romans” (Dr. Bill Cooper).

I would strongly recommend Dr. Cooper’s account of the martyrdom of one Richard Hunne, about whom a very brief note is found in Fox’s Book of Martyrs. A bishop ordered the arrest of Richard Hunne, a wealthy cloth merchant because he read the Bible in English to those would stand at in his shop and listen. That church official sent two men to his cell to murder him and make it look like a suicide. They failed to make it look like a suicide, but did make it look like murder.

The Bible Richard Hunne was reading? It was passed down to a descendant who brought it to America and a few years ago it was on display in Houston, according to Dr. Cooper. They killed the man but time will not permit me to tell you about his powerful testimony.

2. A flourishing faith is not self centered. In 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter, we are given a picture of godly love, born of the grace of God and channeled down through faith to true believers:

“Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; (5) does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; (6) finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; (7) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never ends” (1 Cor 13:4-8).

3. A flourishing faith is not self serving.
4. A flourishing faith is not popular.
5. A flourishing faith is not safe.
6. A flourishing faith is not worldly
7. A flourishing faith is not secret.

B. Now, Let Us See What a Flourishing Faith Is.

1. It is life changing. It was faith in Jesus Christ that led the apostles to obey the Great Commission, which led each of them to become martyrs for the Lord they loved and served. Bill Cooper, in OLD LIGHT ON THE ROMAN CHURCH, introduces us to Caradoc, king of his island of Britain who defeated the Romans in 30 pitched battles and only surrendered after family members were betrayed by a relative and taken to Rome. Caradoc was taken to Rome to appear before the emperor. When others fell on their face before the emperor, Caradoc crossed his arms and gave the emperor a piece of his mind. Witnesses cried out that he was too brave to kill, so the emperor placed his family in the home of one Lady Pomponia, who led them to faith in Jesus Christ. Caradoc’s son Linus became the first bishop of the church at Rome, and was martyred. Caradoc’s daughter Claudia married Rufus, the son of the Lady Pomponia, and wrote many of they hymns believers sang in the first century.

2. Genuine faith saturates one with the love of God. Nothing characterizes true believers more than godly love. The First Commandment is to love the Lord our God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the Second Commandment is to love your neighbor as your self.

3. It give us a love for His Word. Love for God gives us a love for His Word.
4. It fills us with the Holy Spirit.
5. It actively shares the Gospel of Christ.
6. It seeks opportunities.
7. It finds expression.


A Flourishing faith finds ways to minister to others.

1. The Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home in Monroe is one of the best examples I know. For over one hundred years, the Home has cared for children, but today we are seeing godly Christian workers reach out is ways no children’s home a generation ago could have imagined. As a member of the Board of Trustees, I have witnessed, read stories, or heard testimonies about the many ministries of our Children’s Home I could not have imagined when I moved to Louisiana. The President and CEO, Dr. Perry Hancock has led the home to venture out in all directions, reaching out to help children in Haiti, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, providing foster care to many children, helping families, providing educational opportunities to both short term and long term residents of the Home. Mrs. Tonya Hancock, who succeeded me as a Louisiana representative on the Board of Trustees at LifeWay Christian Resources, asked not to be re-elected so she could devote her time to a new ministry. She enrolls young mothers and teaches them office skills, until they are computer literate and qualified for other office work and then helps them find a job so they can care for their children.

2. Franklin Graham directs Samaritan’s Purse a ministry that enlists churches all over the country in an effort to fill shoe boxes which are delivered to needy children all over the world. The are now
approaching 100 million shoe boxes! Our children help provide the things that are packed in the shoe boxes, and they help fill them. Some even help deliver them to a drop off location.

3. The Louisiana Baptist Convention actively carries out Mission projects throughout the state, with special emphasis on south Louisiana.

4. LifeWay seeks places to support the International Mission Board in reaching out to peoplearound the world. They also help the North American Mission Board plant new churches in North America.

5. Following Hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross was first in contributions to victims of the disaster. The Salvation Army ranked second and Southern Baptist Disaster Units ranked third. There is more: many of the meals served by the Red Cross and the Salvation Army were prepared and furnished by those Southern Baptist Disaster units, who were often on the first on the scene after a disaster. They were the ones who did not ask for contributions.

6. The North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board, with the support of members of over 16, 000 churches, send missionaries through out America and throughout the world to lead people to Jesus Christ, to feed the hungry, provide medical care to those who need it, drill well for those who need safe drinking water, send food to the hungry, and provide educational opportunities where that is needed.

Why do they do all these things? Because our Savior commands it, because the Lord calls people to commit their lives to these various ministries, and because those missionaries and volunteers have a burden for those who need these ministries. They serve because they have faith in Jesus Christ.


A. Faithful Saints Have Been Persecuted from the Beginning.

I remember hearing R. G. Lee, in an illustration about the martyrdom of Girolamo Savonarola, (1452-1498). Savanarola, of whom Dr. Lee said, “Words fell from his mouth like golden pollen from the stems of shaken lilies,” was just one of the saints who was killed by the official church for preaching the pure Gospel. R. G. Lee said that the church tried to silence those witnesses, but it was like taking your hand and slapping a puddle of water on a table, only to see drops fall all around, and every where a drop landed, revival broke out.

B. Christians Fled to America to Escape Persecution.

Those early immigrants came to America for many reasons, not the least of which was the freedom to worship the Lord as the Scripture led them. They were often fleeing, not persecution by pagans or pagan kings, but by those who called themselves Christians but tortured and killed those who read the Bible in their own language, those who sought to live their lives by God’s Word rather than the orders of an organized religion that would kill them for possessing the Bible in English.

C. Faithful Saints Can Expect Persecution.

Have you been persecuted lately? No? Have you wondered why not? If your life blends comfortably with the world you can avoid persecution. The world love a worldly Christian, but the true Christian witness offends those of the world. Jesus promised,“If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love [you as] its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

D. The World Hates Jesus and It Hates His Followers

When I was playing high school football, several teammates skipped practice and went down town to a pool hall. Of course, they were caught and new rules were implemented. The Superintendent announced at practice one night that we would practice every night at six o’clock, and after stressing that if anyone missed a practice he was off the team. He then looked around and demanded, “Now, does anyone have to miss for any reason?!” I raised my hand and he demanded, “Johnny, What’s wrong with you?!? I said, “I go to prayer meeting on Wednesday night.” He shook his head and demanded, “And you CAN’T MISS IT?” I looked him in the eye and said, “I CAN’T MISS IT!”
He paused a minute and then asked, “Does anyone else have to miss for any reason?”

Our high school superintendent knew me well and he knew that I meant what I said. It never dawned on me that teammates would wonder if I was being a fanatic, nor did I ever consider what they might have thought if I had walked off the team that night, and I would have done it. I was seventeen years old and the Lord had called me into His ministry when I was thirteen. I knew where my priorities were. Years later, my brother James heard from a student who was one of the younger boys on our team. That student was six-five when he was in the eighth grade and later became a marathon runner. He said to my brother, “I knew one Christian at our high school, and that was your brother.”
I tried to figure out why he said that, since I knew a number of sincere Christians.

Then one day it dawned on me: He was sitting there on the ground with me when I told the superintendent that I would be in prayer meeting at my church, even if I had to leave the football team. I don’t think anyone there doubted that I would have done it. I would not have resented the new rules and I would not have held it against the superintendent. I knew where my priorities were. I could have walked off and never looked back. What is more important to you than God and His church on Sunday? On Sunday evening? On Wednesday evening?

In Dr. Cooper’s book, OLD LIGHT ON THE ROMAN CHURCH, he mentions name after name many of the people who received Jesus as Savior, began witnessing for Him, and were killed because of their commitment to Him. I mentioned Richard Hunne and a few others, but if you will read Fox’ Book of Mrtyrs, you will be amazed at the saints who were tortured and burned because they dared read the Bible in their own language, or because they shared their faith with others.

E. America Is at War with God Today.

Can you believe the Supreme Court would sit before a prominent display of the Ten Commandments and rule that a lower court cannot post the Ten Commandments in their court room? Can you believe that you may one day, and that may be closer than you think, be prosecuted for stating that homosexuality is a sin? Can you believe the country founded on religious freedom may prosecute those who pray in public, set up a nativity scene, or even celebrate Christmas in any public arena?

Do you not realize that America may one day be persecuting Christians who do not approve of same sex marriage, oppose abortions, or talk about Jesus in public places? We may be facing a “revival or else” situation on down the line if there is no revival today.


Do we need a revival? Look around, listen to the language of your neighbors, listen to some rap music, if you can handle that. In a letter to the editor in our local newspaper, one father wrote of having to sit and listen to vile words played in rap music that was played at a high school baseball game where men, women, young people, and children were watching a baseball game. This is in the heart of the Bible Belt! That cries out for revival. There is a disturbing number of “R” rated movies listed on a satellite network in what was once called the family viewing time.
Children and young people are increasingly making crude references to body parts and body functions. One wonders if the entertainment media is not actually marketing alcoholic beverages through movies and television programs. If you wonder if some of the dancing and immodest dress being featured in movies and on TV may contribute to the disturbing rise in immoral behavior in America today people do not wonder about that behavior, the wonder what is wrong with you. What has happened to this country?

What would it take to turn this country around? What would it take to move this nation back toward our Lord? I was asked that many years ago and the only answer that came to mind scares me: persecution. That has moved the church forward in other places and in other times. Frankly, I don’t want to be persecuted! Satan can use the world to lure church members away from church. He has never learned that the thing he desires most will turn them back to the Lord and to a true Bible believing church. Persecution! It has worked in other places, and it is amazing what persecuted saints are going through, an what they are doing for the Lord in Islamic countries today.

Do you want your children and grandchildren to be persecuted for their faith, or would you like to see them enjoy a flourishing faith in a local church, in a Christian home, and in a Christian community and a Christian nation? Then, we must have a revival, a revival that not only sees lost people come to the Lord, but a revival that reaches into every local church in this country and empowers us to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ - at church, at home, at school, and work, and anywhere you find Christians.

Revival demands faith; the faith to witness for the Lord, the faith to pray to the Lord, the faith to live a godly life. It demands the faith to ask the Lord for revival. When I was in seminary I served for some time as Minister to Youth at First Baptist Church, Rayville, Louisiana. He pastor, Dr. H. R. Herrington had invited Dr. D. Wade Armstrong to preach a revival in our church and I was surprised when Dr. Armstrong showed up of our prayer service one Wednesday evening and wanted to talk with our people. Dr. Herrington introduced Dr. Armstrong, who was the Vice President over Evangelism for the General Baptist Convention of California, which included arts of other states.

Dr. Armstrong talked with us about praying for revival, witnessing to lost people, and inviting neighbors to the services. He was a quiet, shy man who told us that after he went forward in church to tell his pastor the Lord was calling him into the ministry he overheard a man say, “That boy can’t preach, he can’t even speak when you meet him on the sidewalk.” The timidity was obvious, until he began preaching or witnessing for Jesus Christ.

He paused and asked our people, “How many people do you want to see saved in this revival?” No one said a word and I was thinking, “As many as possible!” Finally, he asked, “Would you like to set a goal of 50?” They were really silent after that. I feel sure they would have been celebrating if they had seen over 10 people make a profession of faith during that revival, which ran Sunday through Friday. We saw 62 people saved that week, many of them were saved in homes. I had a list of prospects and took him to a number of homes to talk with people. At one place a father, mother and several children were saved.

Did Dr. Armstrong have some secret formula, or perhaps he had the kind of personality that simply overwhelmed people? No, his was right the opposite. In fact, as we walked up to one home he said, “I never walk up to a door and ring a door bell that the thought doesn’t come to me, “Maybe they won’t be at home.” Not only was he an extremely quiet, shy person, his wife was dying of cancer at the time, and she was with him for the week.

This was a man with a burden for lost people, and even though he had to depend on the Lord to help him to introduce himself to new people, when he had an opportunity he calmly and quietly share his faith in the Lord and the Lord used his witness to draw people to the Cross. Are you willing to pray for revival, and I really mean pray? Are you willing to share your faith with a neighbor?

Revival is needed. Revival is possible. The question is, do you really want revival enough to pray and to share your faith in Jesus Christ with others? Will you make that commitment right now?